links: this went thru my mind

Choices, depression, happiness, mental health & thankfulness: What Are the Three Ways to Train Your Brain to Be Happy? [think Philippians 4.8]

“You can train your mind to be unhappy and you can train it to be happy. … Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”). Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?””

Culture, grace & post-Christendom: Vanishing Grace

“Frankly, Christian faith is losing traction in society. It has lost traction in Europe and Canada where far fewer than half find religion a positive influence. And it will likely continue to lose traction in the US.”

Early Christianity, ingratitude, nonviolence, pacifism, perception & the state: Pacifism & Holy Ingratitude [essential reading; spot-on!]

“… the Romans considered the early Christians to be an ungrateful group of people. … Specifically, the Romans believed that Roman citizens owed a certain amount of gratitude toward the state. Romans lived in a great, prosperous and generally peaceful empire. Thus, Roman citizens owed the state gratitude. But the Christians seemed to differ. Confessing Jesus as ‘Lord of all’ and directing their gratitude toward God rather than toward the state the Christians busted up the cycles of gratitude that had kept Roman citizens bound to the state. One way that Christians expressed this holy ingratitude was in their refusal to kill for the state. This refusal struck the Romans as hugely ungrateful. Christians benefited as Roman citizens. Yet they refuse to participate in the fighting that created and maintained all those benefits. Non-violent Christians in their refusal to participate in the Roman military were non-patriotic slackers and free-riders.”

God & sovereignty: Does the “Sovereignty of God” Mean That God is Responsible for Everything That Happens?

“… some of what we encounter in life may be simple chance.”

Intimidation, involvement, lukewarmness & spiritual maturity: The Institutionalization of Lukewarmness

“What causes mediocrity in the church members? You take a stab with your best guess. Mine is cowardice. We want peace which interpreted can mean, ‘Leave me alone to serve where I want. Do not press me else I will bolt.’ Intimidation often rules.  This is why so many don’t sing. They don’t want to be heard. Others don’t serve. They don’t want to be seen. Yet, others sneak in and sneak out.  They don’t want to be in contact. Living in the kingdom is a scary, threatening, and risky walk. Institutionalization, however, has declared immunity to the timid. Following Jesus demands we take up our crosses; not sneaking about in dark alleys at night going undetected, but bravely moving about in the public square destined for ridicule and persecution.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Appreciation, encouragement, gratitude & thankfulness: 25 People You Should Say Thank You To Today [required reading]

“Sometimes we get so caught up in our own little world that we forget to thank the people who have helped us the most.”

Church announcements, communication corporate worship, worship gatherings: Why Your Church Needs More (Often) Announcements in Worship

“Historically, the church began worship services by announcing all member-related deaths. Nothing screams ‘Let’s worship!’ like announcing Aunt Geraldine’s funeral.”

Communication, disagreement, discussion, listening, unity & words: The Art of Having Conciliatory Theological Discussions – Suggestions

“It has taken me a while to figure a few things out when it comes to discussing a disagreement with someone. Here are a few observations I have made over the last few years that set a positive tone for a healthy conversation.”

Fathers, parenting & words: When Daddy is Silent

“A daddy’s silence can be deadly. Far too many men are silent at all the wrong times.  A father’s silence can communicate volumes. The absence of his voice can leave a boy or girl feeling emotionally alone.”

Humility, knowledge, leadership, ministry, missions, others, perception & understanding: What People in Other Countries Need (And What We Think They Need) [required reading]

“… keep in mind … the principle of relative deprivation. It’s the idea of wanting something because others have it.”

Ministry & prayer: What is the Most Common Ministry Priority that a Pastor Neglects?

“… week after week, I saw the things I was supposed to be doing getting squeezed out of my schedule because there were urgent demands on my time. Above all else, the one task that seemed to get squeezed out most was prayer. … Unfortunately, prayer doesn’t demand your attention. In the midst of people wanting your time and urgent tasks to complete, spending time in prayer is easy to neglect.”

on giving thanks; a very brief sermon

 

Give thanks.

This is good. Very good. May we only grow in the practice of it.

But, let us always remember that giving thanks is not an end in itself.

Our giving thanks to God is meant to move us toward giving grace to others.

For while God does not need our thanks (he is not “in need” of anything), he does desire his creation to be good to the rest of creation.

To live in harmony, peace, and blessing.

To love as he loves.

And so today, if you are thankful you have …

* food … then pray for the hungry and seek to feed others;

* clothing … then petition God for those who are without and clothe others;

* a place out of the elements … intercede for those who are homeless and support low-cost housing;

* a legal and ethical means of making a living … pray for the unemployed and the wrongly employed, work hard at your job, and assist others as you can;

* family and friends … talk with God for the lonely and abandoned, caring for them with your time and attention.

* freedom to worship without persecution … plead with God for the persecuted and love your enemies.

Give thanks. This is good. May such grow daily all the more in us.

In terms of expression, and not only emotion. In ways of action, and not merely intention. In means of care, not just concern.

For our God is good.

And so, let us be good to all.

All the time.

LIFE group guide: give thanks, because …

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Nov. 24). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon. This sermon is entitled “Give Thanks, Because …” and is my “Thanksgiving sermon.”

To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues. All Scripture texts reproduced below, unless otherwise noted, are from the CEB.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this particular sermon.

To remind us of the value and blessings of a grateful spirit expressed in thankful ways.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of the sermon. Underscored words are emphasized in the Greek text.

• Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. (1 Chron. 16.8 NLT)

• Give thanks to the God of heaven— God’s faithful love lasts forever! (Ps. 136.26 CEB)

• This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God. Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they’ll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough! (2 Cor. 9.10-15 The Message)

• Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts … And be thankful. (Col. 3.15 NIV)

• … since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship … (Heb. 12.28 NRSV)

Relation

These icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start thinking, talking, and relating to the topic or texts. Discuss one.

1. What movie character or scene do you recall as profoundly depicting gratitude?

2. Tell us of something for which, over time, you have come to grow deeply thankful.

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. Read 1 Chron. 16.7-13,14-18,19-22,23-27,28-30,31-33,34-36. Then do vs. 36b.

2. What specific reasons can you find in Psalm 136 to be thankful for God?

3. What exactly is the “relief offering” in view in 2 Corinthians 9.10-15?

Reflection

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.

1. Consider what you often thank God for … and then consider what rarely shows up.

2. What tends to move you to grateful, thankful prayer to God?

3. What benefits can others enjoy from overhearing you unashamedly thank God?

4. Someone asks you, “How do I become a more grateful person?” What would you say?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid you in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Train yourself to make your very first thought/prayer each day to be one of thanks.

2. “Count your blessings, name them one-by-one.” Make a list. Add to it daily. For life.

3. Compose your own simple song of thanksgiving. Let  1 Chron. 16 and Ps. 136 aid you.

this went thru my mind

 

Equality & freedom: A Black Intellectual Writes to Thomas Jefferson by Bobby Valentine

On July 4, 1776 explosive words from Thomas Jefferson captured the hearts of men and women, white and black, in the British Colonies in America.  Those words read, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ … The letter of Benjamin Banneker to Thomas Jefferson on August 19, 1791 was laden with potential to renew the promise of the American Revolution. … Perhaps Banneker should be in the Canon of American Saints as much – perhaps more – than Thomas Jefferson.”

Faith & politics: The Real ‘Evangelical Disaster’ by Rachel Held Evans

“The great evangelical disaster is that evangelicalism has become synonymous with Republicanism rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ. This happened long before the 2012 presidential election. It happened when we turned the Bible into a conservative position paper and Jesus into a flag pin. “

Generosity: Family Christian Stores Buys Itself, Pledges to Give 100% of Profits to Widows and Orphans

“Under the new ownership, Family Christian’s pledge is to contribute 100% of its profits to Christian causes and, specifically, ministries serving widows and orphans both in the USA and abroad.”

Thanksgiving: * An American Thanksgiving from a Global Perspective by Dan Bouchelle; * Tips for Teaching Your Children Thanksgiving! by Mark Woodward

* “I have traveled to all six populated continents and preached for churches in each place. I spend a lot of time listening to church leaders and disciple-makers describe the realities they face in their countries with all the joys and struggles that entails. I also have gotten to witness first hand the living conditions, social realities, political climates, and spiritual environments of many different parts of the globe. With that as the backdrop to my current life, I enter into this Thanksgiving season differently than I once did.”

* “If you want your children to be thankful—grateful—adults, you have a great opportunity to work on them during Thanksgiving.  This holiday can be so much more than Indians and pilgrims or eating and football!  We Christians have a great opportunity to re-capture the holiday from the secularists and materialists and instill in our children a grateful spirit rather than an entitled one!”